By Brian Titus, November 28th, 2017
Clever story-telling, a fun cast, and belly laughs are just a few of the reasons to visit the Tipping Point Theatre in Northville to see Norm Foster’s ‘Office Hours.’ My wife and I went last weekend to the Sunday afternoon performance, usually the holiday season is a busy one for us but I was intrigued by the title of the play so we made time for it. Spending years working in an office can literally provide countless moments of comedic material and was curious how this playwright and director chose to interpret their vision for an office place stage comedy. What I got was much different than I had anticipated but usually that’s a good thing!
Norm Foster’s ‘Office Hours’ is actually more of a twisting tale of several neurotic characters and how their lives intersect, they just so happen to be in several offices for the entirety of the performance. Positives of this play are bountiful; the playwright really does an exceptional job of making the play more about the characters and less about the space itself. These characters are a lovely palette of wacky, motivated, and sometimes horrible people. Take for instance the door-to-door day planner salesman who will literally do anything to make a sale, including climbing on a dangerous ledge with a suicidal patient. Also this play includes a horny psychiatrist, a vengeful news reporter, a misguided horse jockey, and the list goes on. Each of their stories has some commonality and some surprise reveals which makes the play an interesting watch. All of the actors play multiple roles, so watching their transformations is entertaining as well.
The stand-out performances were obvious character actors who really took their roles and played with the dialogue while maintaining their own interpretation of these zany characters. Ryan Carlson who played the man on the ledge, the horse jockey, and the one-armed man was a crowd favorite. Carlson got a majority of the belly laughs in this performance and the audience really reacted to him each time he was on stage. The other obvious stand-out was Wayne David Parker who played the TV news reporter, the husband/father, and the film director. Parker’s ability to say something without saying it was a wonderful tick the audience found enduring and honest, adding up to great comedy. All the other performances by Terry Heck, Kyle Mitchell Johnson, and Sarah Hawkins Moan were good but I for some reason really connected with the comedy of Carlson and Parker.
Some of the notes I would give on these performances are really trivial and don’t have an extreme impact on the enjoyment of the play but they should be noted. It is a challenge in a smaller black box theatre to try and have full coverage of the action throughout the play. That being said, far too often during this show my wife and I were not only staring at someone’s rear end for an extended period of time but the cast was blocking the sight view of the audience to other characters.
The transition of scenes with a switch of an office sign felt often rushed or clunky. Finally I love one-background plays because it really challenges a playwright to make sure there is enough going on in the scene to keep the audience entertained. I felt that some scenes were stagnant with inactivity or vacant of bold choices. It doesn’t have to be three stooges comedy but characters should be so expressive in their dialogue and actions on stage that you barely even realize they’ve been standing in the same space for the entire performance.
All in all ‘Office Hours’ is a great example of what a writer can do with characterization and the evolution of a single idea, namely offices are full of neurotic people. For an evening or afternoon out, this performance shows the consistent talent that Michigan’s theatrical community has to offer. Enjoy it with family and friends during the holidays.
Opening night is November 18th, with discounted preview performances Thursday, November 16th and
Friday, November 17th. The curtain rises at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, with matinees at 3 p.m.
on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Special Wednesday matinee performances are on November 29 and
December 20 at 3 p.m
For ticket information visit Tipping Point Theatre’s Website